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“You know better than that”

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As a child and into young adulthood, I heard those words from time to time. Specifically, I heard them nearly every time I did something wrong and couldn’t squirm, weasel, or outright lie my way out of it.

Come to think of it, saying I heard those words “from time to time” isn’t completely true. I heard them far more frequently than that.

The inference, of course, is that I was raised to know right from wrong, good from bad, and so on and therefore should have known better than to do the thing that got me in trouble.

Looking back on those carefree days of my early childhood, I can safely say that I liked to see how close to the edge I could get before hearing my name called out. I came to understand that when I heard a loud “RONALD!” I had fallen off that edge and it was only a matter of time before the hammer would fall.

Like the time when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I started a small fire on the floor in the hay loft of our barn. Actually, I prefer to think of it as a ‘controlled burn’ because I went to great pains to make sure I had cleared the immediate area of any excessive hay that could catch the barn on fire.

Which, by the way, I never got the proper credit for.

Anyway, all was going according to plan until one of my two younger sisters who were there with me ‘somehow’ managed to burn her finger and headed to the house, crying like a baby. Captivated by my advanced fire making skills in the middle of the barn floor, my other sister and I never gave her a second thought.

That is until a few minutes later when I saw my dad’s head at the top of the ladder. What followed next can only be described as “other worldly”, because it is simply not possible for a human being to move as quickly from the top of a ladder to where my small, ‘controlled burn’ was.

In a nanosecond, with super human skills that would make Jason Bourne envious, my dad had leaped off the ladder with a single bound, extinguished the ‘controlled burn’, grabbed me and threw me across a bale of hay, and proceeded to give me a whipping for the ages with a strap of leather that was hanging on a nail just seconds prior.

Thankfully, the years have dulled my memory to the point where I cannot remember which was the loudest, the thud of the leather strap across my body or the screams coming from the deepest recesses of my soul.

After what seemed like a good 30 or 40 minutes at the hands of my inquisitor, (though in reality it was not quite that long) I was released from the ‘hayloft turned torture chamber’ and sent to the house with strict orders to go straight to bed.

No supper. No TV. No bath (yeah!). No nothing. I still remember my mom coming into the bedroom to check on me, and her pleading with my dad to at least let me eat supper. That wasn’t happening, of this I was made sure. Now THAT hurt!

Later on, my sisters snuck into my room to see if I was still alive. Either that, or they wanted me to know that the chicken leg, mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits that was supposed to be my supper did not go to waste, thank you very much.

So, I stayed in my room until the next morning. I don’t remember the specifics, but I do know that at some point that morning there was a very stern discussion, I mean LECTURE, about the dangers of playing with matches in a hay filled barn loft.

Even after all that had happened, I tried to plead my case by saying how responsible I had been by clearing away the hay and choosing the best place for my campfire. My dad, however, was hearing none of it. Knowing how to start a fire on the river bank was an admirable skill it seemed, while in the barn, not so much.

I can’t recall how many times the phrase “you know better than that” was used during THE LECTURE. No doubt I heard it many times that day, as well as the ensuing days when I was assigned some type of hard labor as further punishment for my foolishness.

I’d love to be able to say that this escapade forever changed my thought process, and from this day forward I was never again to engage in anything so dangerous and foolish. Yes, I would love to be able to say that.

But I can’t. Oh, to be sure I never played with matches in the barn again. But I did many other, equally dangerous things through the years as I was growing up. When my dad died when I was 12 years old, I went through a rough period of several years of living as close to the edge as I could get. Things like riding in a friend’s car doing 145 MPH on a two-lane country road, for example.

And worse. Much worse.

I suppose though that all of us do things we know better than to do, which I guess is why my Princess reminds me from time to time that I still need ‘direction’.

No doubt, it’s in our DNA to push the envelope. I believe that is how our Creator made us, to push the boundaries, to explore the unknown, to be curious enough to try something for the 1st time. Not destructive things, mind you, but things that require us to reach beyond ourselves. Things that require us to reach out to a Power far beyond our own.

When we do things that we know are wrong, or dangerous, or destructive, there is a still small voice that reminds us that “you know better than that”. It isn’t a condemning voice, but rather a Father’s voice, born of concern and love for His children.

My prayer is that we will come to know that Voice, and that we will allow it to be our guide when making life’s many decisions.

Trust me on this, it sure beats the consequences of acting on our own impulses!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When “works” replace Jesus…

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Recently I came across an article that talked about pastors filling in their church calendars for the new year. The gist of this article dealt with whether or not the items that made their calendars was real ministry or simply “busy work”.

It made for interesting reading, especially when one of the pastors posted a link to his calendar for everyone to see. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold nearly every day of the week was filled from early morning till late in the evening.

Everything from early morning Bible studies and Zumba classes, afternoon staff and business meetings, to evening choir practice and healthy cooking classes filled this church’s calendar.

Frankly, it was the busiest church calendar I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. At first glance one would be inclined to say that this church was very busy, and they certainly were. I couldn’t imagine them squeezing anything else into an already stuffed daily agenda.

There was something odd however about this church calendar. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but I couldn’t shake the notion that in spite of so many agenda items something was missing.

Then it hit me. There was something missing! In fact, I noticed two missing items. The first was that there was no time built into the calendar for corporate prayer. The second thing that I noticed missing was there was not one single event or activity geared toward anyone outside the four walls of the church!

As I studied this I was reminded of something that Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.    Revelation 2:2-4(NKJV).    Emphasis mine

Lets look at these verses in detail because I think we might see ourselves in them.

Jesus recognized the works that the church had been doing. He called attention to their labor and patience, and how many of us can relate when it comes to having patience when doing the Lords work?

Jesus also mentioned the church’s disdain for those who practiced evil. All of us understand this don’t we? We are trying to live a Godly life in the midst of a perverse and increasingly evil society, and it’s only going to become more challenging.

He goes on to list several more very positive attributes of the church at Ephesus, leaving no doubt that He knew this church intimately. Hmmm…do you suppose Jesus knows the church you attend in such intimate detail?

At first glance this church could be the model for all other churches in the area. Things were going good, and I imagine there was quite a buzz about all the wonderful things the church at Ephesus was doing.

But, and there’s always a but, right? There was a problem in the church, a problem so important that Jesus couldn’t let it slide without calling their attention to it.

It all began with the word “nevertheless”. Just hearing the word sends thoughts of “uh oh, here it comes” to our minds. Even after all of the praise Jesus gave the church, there was a “nevertheless” that cast a dark shadow on what was an otherwise glowing report.

Nevertheless, he said, this church had lost their first love.

Ouch!

What does this mean, to have lost your first love? It means that the church at Ephesus no longer loved the Lord with the same level of intensity they once had. Their passionate love for Jesus had been replaced by something else.

They had lost their zeal for Christ. Typically when this happens, we just go through the motions of serving God. Our heart is no longer motivated by the love of Jesus, we become content to do as many good works as we can, placing our trust in the deeds themselves rather than Jesus.

Ask me how I know this!

Do you know what this is called? It’s called RELIGION, and it ceases to be about a relationship with Christ. The church at Ephesus abandoned their first love in exchange for cold, formal, impersonal RELIGION.

This is the same poison that has infected the Church today. The poison of RELIGION has suffocated the once fervent relationship she had with Christ. This is why there is such apathy in the pew today. We have supplanted relationship with form, with rules, with do’s and dont’s.

But it doesn’t have to be like this! There’s more to the story! In the next verse, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus an “out”. He told them to REPENT. That’s right, simply REPENT.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”   Rev. 2:5   KJV

I believe that this is the message for the Church today. Remember where we came from, acknowledge we have strayed, repent and get going again.

Return to the love of Jesus, then watch how much impact our works will have on the world around us!

Maybe we should put THAT in our church calendars!

Be blessed,

Ron